Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Helen Louise Schmidt Bateman Peterson Tarran

That's the name of my great grandmother. I'll have to find a few pictures and scan them. She was such a strong woman, James can testify to that. Although I don't think she's every been more than 90 pounds she had so much fight in her. She was born November 7th, 1915 and passed away November 25, 2009. I have been so blessed to have her in my life, but first I wanted to share the last few days of her life with you. I know it was miraculous, and I guess in a way express gratitude. On the Friday before Thanksgiving we headed to Arizona for James' aunt Amy's wedding. While we were driving, I received the worst call from my parents. My great grandmother, who I'm really close to had another stroke. She had one just over 2 years ago, and mostly recovered, but lost most of her ability to speak. But, she understood everything.Then on Monday my family except for my dad came to town. It was fun to have them here, though it was only for a little while, we went and visited my Grandma Helen in the hospital. Then on Wednesday night my dad flew in.
Luckily my dad's flight came in early, because we were early to the airport. So on our way back home we went to the hospital so my dad could visit my Grandma Helen before we drove down to Zion's for Thanksgiving. The visiting hours of that hospital end at 10, so we had plenty of time. When we got to my great grandmother's room that changed. Her heart rate was erratic and she was declining. We were able to be there 8 minutes before she died, and stayed with her as she left. I can't help but feel like she was just holding on to see my father, while she had a special place in her heart for him. And I know it wasn't an accident that we were at the airport early and that my dad's flight came in early, and that we didn't hit any traffic. I really don't think any of it was coincidence. I had a really hard time with it at first, and I don't think James has really seen me that shut up before. The tears fell with no regard at the hospital, and I can't help it now, but for the few days in between I just tried not to think about it. I was really close with her, she was my pen pal, and one of the most amazing women I know. I don't think I've ever met anyone that was so selfless and caring. She was 94, and lived an amazing life, she was first married to my great grandfather, but he passed away over 50 years ago, and remarried two other times, outliving all of her husbands. I will miss her and more than anything I wanted her to be alive when we had her first great great grandchild, but I know she's with her husband, 50 years is a long time to spend away from your spouse and I know she's being taken care of. But, I'll miss her dearly. I wish James could have gotten to know her better before her first stroke. Because she was always so caring and welcoming. It was hard being there after she died, I kept thinking that she was just going to wake up, but of course that didn't happen. Then my great aunt Kathy called to ask if I would play a piano piece and speak at her funeral. After all of that time I felt like I could, because I felt so peaceful about her leaving. I knew she was being reunited after 50 years with her spouse. But, then on Saturday when the funeral came, I couldn't keep the tears in. I have to say part of it probably has to do with the flood of hormones that I have washing through me all of the time now, but I got up there and I was probably making a funny face the whole time while I was trying to fight back the tears. I shared some memories with the audience, while I followed my dad and his siblings. And my memories are very different than theirs.

I was always proud to share with my friends that I had a living great grandmother, in fact it became something that I would brag about. And I always felt like I had a special connection with her, and I really did, but I know that she made everyone feel that way. But, I consider myself so lucky to have known her and to have formed such a strong bond while she was one of the msot selfless people I have ever known.

The first memory I have with her that I really remember was how I first made a connection with her. I have always loved writing, I have completed my twelfth journal and written so many letters and stories, and so when I was about ten I became penpals with her. She has always lived in Utah, so I never really spent much time with her. But, it was so neat to read all of her stories and hear about her childhood. I loved that I was becoming friends with my great grandmother. I am so grateful that I am a pack rat and have kept all of those letters and cards that she sent me. I will forever be grateful tor them. They are so priceless to me. One thing that I realized early on was that there were many inaccuracies in her letters. It wasn't that the stories were false, but when other people would fill in little details it became apparent how selfless her version of the story was. I learned how she would never speak poorly about anyone, and those letters became even more valuable to me. For those stories were no longer just narratives, but they became descriptive of who she was. And I felt like I really came to know her.

The second set of memories I wanted to mention came after her first stroke. At the time James and I were engaged, and we were both in school. I felt so guilty that I hadn't spent more time with her since I was at BYU and she lived about ten minutes away. So I decided to seize the opportunity presented. I may have gone a little overboard, but I went to the hospital everyday for the many months that she was in there. I told her about school, about my study abroad, about my experiences, about music and sports, and after we got married, I lugged my laptop to the hospital and showed her all of my wedding pictures. Despite the loss of her speech abilities her face always said so much more. So while I'll never know exactly what she wanted to say, her face always told me how she felt. And while I'm sure living in the hospital for that long was miserable, she was always so excited to see me and James. Never hinting even in the slightest of how miserable her life had become.

The last memory I wanted to share is more selfish than anything. When James and I found out we were pregnant I was so excited to tell her. And even after two years of speech therapy she still had trouble forming words and sentences. Often when she tried to say anything it came out "What did you, what did you, what did you" or that's what James and I thought it sounded like. So it was kind of humorous when we went over and told her, all of the excitement she had overwhelmed her and she wasn't able to form her words and so she said "What did you, what did you, what did you" over and over again. At the time I made her promise that she would be around in April to see her first great great grandchild. It was a selfish promise, I knew she was in pain, and her body was falling a part so it was asking her to hold on and live in pain for longer than she should have to. That was what I kept thinking as she had her second stroke, that she'd recover, because she just had to be there. Such selfish thoughts I was having, but as I sat watching her move on, I knew it was past her time, that she should go home to her Heavenly Father and her husband and all of her relatives there.

She was my inspiration for taking German. Her parents came over to America right before she was born and right before the first World War. She knew a little bit of German, but it became apparent after years of taking it, that she really didn't remember anything. But, I continued to love the language, I loved the connection that it brought me. I loved going over to Nurenburg and seeing their homes and the places they worked and the Church that her parents were married in. Everyone asks me why I took German, and I think that's basically why.

She always reminded me of President Hinckley, total disregard for doctors, even in spite of the fact that her own son-my grandpa is a doctor. A few days before her second stroke she was walking, and wouldn't use her cane except to help her get up from the couch. It just seemed like she thought it was just something they told her to carry around all the time. And after her first stroke she had to have a feeding tube put in, but she kept pulling it out. I can't remember how many times they had to go back to the hospital because my great aunt Kathy had discovered that she had pulled it out again. And remember, she had all consciousness she only lost her speech, this was just her being stubborn and not wanting tubes coming out of her. She was always so concerned with getting herself ready. Everyday when we'd visit her she had her hair neatly done and seemed like she had put a lot of work into making herself presentable, even during those months at the hospital, she always wanted the hospital bed to look nice and her hair was done and the things she had at the hospital were always organized. I hope I don't put my foot in my mouth for saying this, but my dad's side of the family has had some issues that are ongoing, but Grandma Helen has always been warm and welcoming to my family and always loved to receive calls and visits, even if it's just to drop by. She had a way of making everyone feel included and loved. She had so many wonderful gifts and talents. And though she was an accomplished musician herself, she always wanted to hear me play the piano or sing, even when I was 9 and playing rather annoying songs. She always expressed to me how wonderful I was, I think she thought I was better than I actually am, but she had that way of making you feel so special, that you just wanted to stay with her.

I will forever be grateful for my interactions with her and the example she has been to me in my life. I am so grateful for the gospel and the knowledge that I have of eternal families and grateful to know that after such a long parting that she is able to be with her husband again. I really am grateful for the work that is done in the temples and to know that I will be able to see her again.


Ashley Smith said...

Wow Erin, what a tribute to an amazing lady! I definitely got choked up several times reading the sweet stories you shared about her. You are so lucky to have had such a neat relationship with her; your life will be blessed forever for making the effort you did.

justin said...

wow what a story! and wouldn't it be fitting to have a little girl and have your great-grandma helen be her namesake. you have 6 names there to choose from!

Eric and Lindsay said...

That is so sweet, I even got a little emotional reading it! I'm sorry she has passed on, you must miss her so much. But that was a very incredible "Dedication" to her. 8)

The Webers said...

This is such a sweet post Erin! I'm sorry for your loss, but know she is reunited with her loved ones. And thank you for your nice comment on my blog, I absolutely love that picture too :) I'm excited to be blogging buddies now!

SweeneyFam said...

I just read this blog a few hours after James called to tell me you are for sure-"It's official" having a GIRL! I think we just discovered who your sweet little girl needs to be named after. Not that I have anything to do with it-but wouldn't that be perfect. Your thoughts and feelings were beautiful and touching. As I sat here and read this, while holding sweet little Brooke, I couldn't help but get choked up several times. Aren't we blessed to know that families are forever. What a wonderful great-grandmother you had.

Kayli Nagel said...

It's so awesome getting to know your Great Grandma. We had my Great Grandma's first great great grandchild too! Its amazing to see the legacy they pass down too. That was a beautiful post! Your Great Grandma should be so proud of you!